Joe Davidson

Folsom still has work to do after beating Grant for NorCal title

Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor congratulates quarterback Jake Browning after the Bulldogs’ win over Grant for the CIF Northern California Division I title.
Folsom co-coach Troy Taylor congratulates quarterback Jake Browning after the Bulldogs’ win over Grant for the CIF Northern California Division I title. rbenton@sacbee.com

The coaches savored this one for less than a day.

This is no time to polish or even admire the latest championship plaque. There’s more work to tackle, more schemes to study, more tendencies to break down. So say Folsom High School football co-coaches Kris Richardson and Troy Taylor, who looked and sounded as spent as their gritty Bulldogs late Friday night as they collected their gear inside an otherwise jubilant locker room.

Folsom had just walloped Grant 52-21 – it was 46-0 after three quarters – in the CIF Northern California Division I Regional Championship at Sacramento State, and already there were thoughts of “What’s next? Who’s next?”

Folsom (15-0) now prepares for Oceanside (14-0) of the San Diego Section after the longtime state power beat Edison of Fresno 37-22 in the Southern California Division I Regional. The CIF State D-I title game is Friday at 8 p.m. in Carson, where this region has had mixed results since the bowl concept debuted in 2006. Oceanside, which has won a state-record 36 section titles, features a balanced offense and an occasionally suffocating defense.

Folsom players and coaches agree they’ve worked too hard and come too far for their season to not end with an emphatic exclamation point.

“We’ll enjoy this win for about six hours,” said Taylor, his voice shot but his spirits high. “Then we’ll crank it right back up and get ready for Oceanside.”

Folsom joins Del Oro as the region’s only programs to reach the CIF finals twice, the Golden Eagles doing so in 2011 and 2013. Area state champions are Grant in the 2008 Open Division, Folsom in D-II in 2010 and Granite Bay in D-I in 2012.. Rocklin lost a heartbreaker in D-II in 2009.

This region has put its mark on the state map, and the burden again belongs to the Bulldogs.

What separates this Folsom team from the 2010 squad, or just about any other, is its dominating line play. Behind two-way standouts Cody Creason, Sam Whitney and Jonah Williams, Folsom set the physical tone against a Grant team that was used to setting such a theme. The Bulldogs blocked with a mixture of sound technique and fury.

Folsom also tackled with aggression in chasing down or bottling up the Pacers’ fleet running backs. The defense was led by Jerod Nooner, Lukas Hendricks, Bailey Laolagi, Tyler Crandall and Sam Whittingham, among others, as the Bulldogs followed the motto of all hats to the ball in a hurry.

Laolagi also got to the end zone in a hurry as he read a screen play and raced into the end zone for a 17-yard interception return for a 24-0 lead.

“A lot of people see all our numbers and think that’s what we’re all about,” Richardson said of the defense. “We have athletes and big and strong kids up front. These guys work so hard. It takes so much work to get to this point. ... We have a defense that can dominate.”

Said Folsom quarterback Jake Browning, “Our defense was awesome. They are always awesome. That entire Grant team is ridiculously good, and they’ve been putting up 50 and 60 points every game, but our defense had them shut out until the final quarter.”

Against Grant, Browning passed for 259 yards and three touchdowns, two to Cole Thompson. Browning also scored on a trick play, catching a 5-yard touchdown pass from Josiah Deguara, giving him a remarkable 90 total scores this season, extending his state season record. He has 85 touchdown passes, second all-time nationally and six shy of the record. Browning also threw a season-high two interceptions – yes, he’s human – but he did make some exceptional throws, including an over-the-shoulder touch pass to Thompson for a score.

“The numbers are always secondary,” Browning said. “What matters is we won. Everyone played great, and we’re playing for a state championship. We’re building more memories. I’ll have to be a little less careless with the ball, but my teammates picked me up. They always do.”

Folsom ran for 240 yards and amassed 504 total yards, the most ever surrendered by Grant under Mike Alberghini in his 24 seasons as coach. Laolagi rushed for 87 yards, Tre Green ran for 78, and Bryan Weldy had a rushing touchdown.

“Our linemen love to run block, and they beg us to run so they can get into the other guys,” Richardson said. “Our guys can get nasty.”

Follow Joe Davidson on Twitter @SacBee_JoeD.

FRIDAY’S GAME

Division I state football championship

Folsom vs. Oceanside

When: 8 p.m.

Where: StubHub Center, Carson

Cost: $15, $10 for students and seniors, plus a parking fee

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